Boston Red Sox Rumors
It appears that the Blue Jays weren't the only team interested in pulling off a Jose Reyes/Josh Johnson blockbuster this offseason. Rob Bradford of WEEI.com adds that the Red Sox also talked with the Fish regarding the Johnson, Reyes and possibly Emilio Bonifacio as well. Ultimately, the Red Sox backed off due to an unwillingness to consider parting with top prospect Xander Bogaerts.
It's understandable that Bogaerts, viewed by most as Boston's top prospect, would be a sticking point. The shortstop from Aruba is ranked higher than any player the Marlins received in Top 100 lists from Baseball America (No. 8), ESPN's Keith Law (No. 5) and MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo (No. 20).
Johnson told Bradford on Wednesday that he, like others in the trade, was caught off guard by the trade. He had been preparing his wife for a trade during the 2012 season, but once the deadline passed, he thought that he and the Marlins' other star players would remain in Miami until this year's trade deadline at the very least:
"I wasn’t hearing one thing. My agent never said anything. Even when the trade went down he was like, ‘Let me see if this is real or not.' But by then it was already on MLB Trade Rumors and stuff."
The right-hander also noted that close friend Cody Ross told Johnson he would love playing in Boston. Johnson went on to say good things about the city when further questioned on the matter by Bradford.
The Blue Jays ultimately acquired Johnson, Reyes, Bonifacio, Mark Buehrle and John Buck from the Marlins in exchange for Justin Nicolino, Jake Marisnick, Yunel Escobar, Adeiny Hechavarria, Henderson Alvarez, Jeff Mathis and Anthony Desclafani.
However, as we learned last month, that trade may not have happened had the White Sox not reached a last-minute extension with Jake Peavy. Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos and White Sox GM Rick Hahn nearly completed a trade before Peavy signed his contract.
In a poll of over 13,000 MLBTR readers, 9.72% ranked the Rays' Andrew Friedman as the best GM in baseball (technically his title is executive vice president of baseball operations). Friedman ranked behind only the Athletics' Billy Beane, who received 13.65% of the vote. Other notes from all five AL East clubs:
- Aside from the obvious factor of money, a chance to win is what compelled free agents to sign with the Red Sox during the offseason, writes WEEI's Rob Bradford. Left fielder/designated hitter Jonny Gomes relished the fact that the team's core players had something to prove, saying, "The opportunity to play in Boston with these guys having a chip on their shoulder was what I signed up for." At 18-7, the Red Sox have the best record in baseball with about 85% of their season remaining.
- The Blue Jays, meanwhile, are 9.5 games behind the Red Sox with a 9-17 record. Dave Cameron of FanGraphs finds it unlikely the Jays will be one of the expected handful of clubs to play around .600 ball from here on out, which is what they'd reasonably need to do for a shot at a wild card. Furthermore, Cameron notes, "The mid-season trade deadline gives teams with slow starts less time to fully realize their natural regression, since they have to make a buy-or-sell decision when April represents 25-30% of their season, not 16% as it will at season’s end."
- "I'm not sure if the Rays feel like he's polished enough to join the club just yet," writes MLB.com's Bill Chastain in reference to top prospect Wil Myers, while noting the right fielder's solid .309/.402/.457 line in 97 Triple-A plate appearances to date.
- Veteran righty Freddy Garcia has been named the International League pitcher of the week, notes Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun. Having made five starts, Garcia now has the ability to opt out of his minor league contract with the Orioles. Rather than Garcia, 25-year-old Zach Britton is getting tonight's start in Seattle.
- "Plans are in the works" for Hideki Matsui to sign a one-day contract to ceremoniously retire a Yankee, writes George A. King III of the New York Post. Matsui spent his first seven MLB seasons with the Yankees, compiling a .292/.370/.482 batting line with 140 home runs.
- 26-year-old Yankees righty Phil Hughes posted his third consecutive quality start yesterday against the Blue Jays. Hughes, who turns 27 in June, projects to be the youngest established free agent starter after this season. One alternative for teams that prefer young starting pitchers is South Korea's Suk-min Yoon, a Scott Boras client who was born a month after Hughes and will be eligible for free agency after the season.
The Red Sox's offseason trade for Mike Carp appears to be paying dividends, the Providence Journal's Brian MacPherson reports. Carp is currently hitting. 455/.500/.864 in a very small sample after joining the Red Sox from the Mariners in February. "We've always liked him as a hitter," says Sox GM Ben Cherington. "There's a history of getting guys out of Seattle, the tough hitting environment. It was a combination of a pretty strong minor-league track record and some big-league success and, subjectively, our scouts have always liked his swing and approach." MacPherson says Carp is part of a recent trend in which the Red Sox cheaply acquire former prospects (like Jeremy Hermida, Andrew Miller, Mike Aviles and Franklin Morales) with the idea that they might take steps forward that they didn't with their previous organizations. Here are more notes from around the American League.
- Lyle Overbay didn't know where he would be headed at the end of spring training before ending up with the Yankees, Vince Z. Mercogliano of the LoHud Yankees Blog writes. The Red Sox had released Overbay, but he quickly found a home with the injury-ravaged Yanks. "My agent was on the line from the get-go. He obviously thought that this might be a fit, and Milwaukee," says Overbay. "Realistically, I think this and Milwaukee were the only chances that I had in that short amount of time."
- The Astros' main objective this year is to see which of their young players can be long-term contributors, GM Jeff Luhnow tells Tyler Kepner of the New York Times. One of those young players is outfielder Robbie Grossman, the main piece the Astros acquired when they traded Wandy Rodriguez to the Pirates last July. Grossman made his big-league debut last week after a strong start for Triple-A Oklahoma City.
The Twins have devoted only 22.5% of their 2013 payroll to pitching (MLB average is 49.8%) and haven't exceeded the league average since 2005. Phil Miller of the Star Tribune writes perhaps no statistic better illustrates the Twins' dry spell in developing pitching prospects. "It’s not by design. It’s not like we said, 'Let’s spend less on pitching and go another way,'" said Twins assistant GM Rob Antony. "When we’ve spent a lot on a contract, more often than not, it’s on players we already have, that we know. We know how they fit in the clubhouse, and we know their health situation. It makes you a little more comfortable with the investment." Miller notes several pitching investments have been wasted because of injuries including this year's highest-paid pitcher Nick Blackburn ($5.5MM), who was removed from the 40-man roster as he recovers from wrist surgery. One investment that does seem to be paying dividends is Kevin Correia, who signed a two-year, $10MM free agent contract last December. The right-hander tossed eight shutout innings and lowered his ERA to 2.31 in the Twins' 5-0 win over the Rangers. In other news and notes from the American League:
- After a four-game sweep at the hands of the Yankees, the seat is becoming hotter for Blue Jays manager John Gibbons. CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman calls this a big test for Gibbons while Keith Law of ESPN.com says it's too early to think about firing the skipper (Twitter links).
- Before the game, Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos met with the media, including Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca, and said he doesn't expect Jose Reyes back until the beginning of July "just to make sure that we do this correctly and we don’t have any setbacks." In the meantime, the plan is use Munenori Kawasaki and Maicer Izturis because Anthopoulos said the costs of going outside the organization for a Reyes replacement "don’t line up for us with what our alternatives are."
- Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg reiterated his team's ability to afford David Price in an interview with WFAN (partial transcript provided by the Tampa Bay Times' Marc Topkin). "We can; I don't know if we'll have any team around him other than him and (Evan) Longoria."
- In the same interview, Sternberg said he expects the Rays' next TV contract to be "big relative to the size of our attendance" but "mid-sized market" compared to other teams.
- The Red Sox prefer to give Shane Victorino some time to work out his back issues rather than trying to bring Jackie Bradley back too soon, tweets the Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo. Victorino underwent an MRI yesterday, which revealed inflammation in his lower back. Bradley, meanwhile, is 7-for-31 with 10 strikeouts and five walks since being optioned to Triple-A.
One month doesn't tell the entire story for a team, but clubs are trying to look at April performances and figure out what direction things are going in, writes Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. The Phillies aren't getting much production out of Ryan Howard and with the Nationals and Braves likely to pick things up soon, they might sell off pieces like Cliff Lee. The Mariners have been struggling to open 2013 and so far offseason acquisitions Kendrys Morales and Michael Morse aren't helping. The 10-13 White Sox are also worth watching because there’s always talk that they would part with players such as Gavin Floyd, Jake Peavy, Alexei Ramirez, Alex Rios, and maybe even Paul Konerko. Here's more from today's column..
- Surprisingly, baseball people have an open mind about acquiring Red Sox right-hander Alfredo Aceves. Boston won't fetch much for him, but one veteran adviser to a GM said, “You’d be crazy not to take that chance with an arm like that. Change of environment can do wonders for a player who might have had a troubled past. I think you always take that risk if the player has skills, and Aceves has skills.” Cafardo wouldn't be surprised to see the Angels and Rangers show interest.
- Scouts who have watched Red Sox minor leaguer Brandon Snyder want him on their team. The first baseman is off to a hot start for Triple-A Pawtucket, hitting .328/.427/.578 with three homers. Snyder was the O's pick in the first round of the 2005 draft (13th overall), a rich draft in which Justin Upton, Alex Gordon, Ryan Zimmerman, Ryan Braun, Ricky Romero, Troy Tulowitzki, Mike Pelfrey, Cameron Maybin, Andrew McCutchen, and Jay Bruce were taken ahead of him. One AL scout said that he can't imagine Snyder not being able to help a big league club.
- Orioles decision maker Dan Duquette is trying to make adjustments to his roster, perhaps by acquiring a power bat off the bench and another starting pitcher.
Rob Neyer, writing for SB Nation, took a look at the future of the game, including some issues that a hypothetical new commissioner might tackle. His list included the poor attendance of the Athletics and Rays, Jeffrey Loria, and the absence of major league baseball from markets like Portland and Charlotte. Elsewhere in baseball ...
- The Red Sox have been very pleased with the early returns on free agent signee Ryan Dempster, writes Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal. Boston gave the soon-to-be 36-year-old a two-year, $26.5MM deal this past offseason. This raised the usual questions about how Dempster would transition to the American League, and in particular its East division. The righty has responded by sporting an impressive 12.9 K/9, albeit with an elevated walk rate, both of which could be the result of increased use of his splitter. David Ross seemed to confirm that analysis after catching Dempster yesterday, saying that he was throwing "a Bugs Bunny splitty."
- With Carlos Ruiz returning, the Phillies are facing a backup catcher roster dilemma, writes Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer. The Phils must remove a player from both the 25-man and 40-man rosters to make way for the team's top backstop. Humberto Quintero has played well in limited action, putting up a .313/.353/.438 line over 17 plate appearances. Meanwhile, Erik Kratz still has an option remaining and has struggled as the team's primary catcher, hitting .191/.222/.309 in his 72 plate appearances. The club has until Sunday to assess whether to designate Quintero for assignment or, instead, option Kratz and make an alternative 40-man move.
- Dodgers' GM Ned Colletti is looking prescient for prioritizing versatility in the team's bench, writes Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times. With Mark Ellis the latest Dodger infielder to suffer an injury, the team can still turn to players like Nick Punto (acquired from the Red Sox last season) and Skip Schumaker (traded from the Cardinals this offseason). Much like with the L.A. rotation, the club's backup infield stock once seemed so full as to warrant a trade, but now looks like valuable depth.
Former Red Sox GM and current Cubs president Theo Epstein discussed the closer-by-committee concept, which he tried unsuccessfully with the Sox ten years back. As Rob Bradford of WEEI.com reports, Epstein recalled how the 2003 situation unfolded: "We were lowering payroll, we wanted to spread some of the remaining money around and we wanted to get draft picks. We felt like the best plan was to get a bunch of good arms and see what happened. It was bad execution because a few of the guys we got didn't perform early so it became a huge controversy. In hindsight we were a little naive how big a story it was going to become and how it was going to take on a life of its own in a detrimental fashion." Epstein still feels that utilization of late-inning matchups is, "in the absence of a clear-cut closer, ... a fine strategy," but notes that "it can wreak havoc" if "the media and the public get involved."
- For different reasons, the current Red Sox club could see its own closer situation making headlines shortly, as WEEI.com's Victor Barbosa writes. Team president and CEO Larry Lucchino says that he "think[s] that there will be a controversy" when Joel Hanrahan returns, given the strong work of Andrew Bailey. But, he said, quite unlike the 2003 team, this one finds itself with more than one qualified closer. Lucchino praised the work of GM Ben Cherington and his staff in assembling the team's bullpen this past offseason, along with focusing on acquiring "good teammates who could perform in the crucible that is Boston and make this team likable but also good."
- Manager John Farrell says the team's decision to ship pitcher Alfredo Aceves to Triple-A is "performance-based, solely," reports the Boston Herald's Scott Lauber. Cherington echoed that sentiment, saying that Aceves "just has to pitch better," according to WEEI.com's Alex Speier. Cherington claims that, in spite of Aceves's demotion (and rumors that the team is looking to trade him), the team continues to believe that he can provide value in Boston. He called Aceves "a hard worker" that has "been a successful pitcher in the big leagues for more than one year."
- Regardless of what they do with Aceves, Boston will hold him to the requirement that he accept the assignment within 72 hours or risk his $2.65MM salary guarantee, CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman reports on Twitter. (The club will, however, let him wait until Saturday, when Triple-A Pawtucket returns home, Heyman tweets.) Heyman further writes that, whatever Aceves's potential, the Red Sox should simply release him. Aceves not only has proven more trouble than he is worth to the team, says Heyman, but he figures to have minimal trade value at this point.
Welcome to the first edition of the weekly Prospect Rumor Roundup here at MLBTR...
Jackie Bradley, OF, Boston Red Sox: Both the Red Sox and the Twins made aggressive player development decisions this spring when the clubs gave opening day roster spots to young outfielders Jackie Bradley and Aaron Hicks. Each player had their share of struggles early on in 2013 and Bradley has already found his way back to the minor leagues.
Both players spent the bulk of the 2012 season at the Double-A level, but the Red Sox prospect's promotion was far more aggressive. A 2011 amateur draft pick, Bradley was added to the 40-man roster at the conclusion of spring training, a full two years before he had to be added to be protected from the Rule 5 draft. This decision could potentially cost the organization two seasons of cost-controlled development time. Hicks, on the other hand, was added to the 40-man roster on time, last November, after his fifth professional season. He still has all three of his minor league options remaining. With the recent demotion to Triple-A for Bradley, the young prospect has now burned one of his three option years.
While speaking with Julian Benbow of the Boston Globe, Red Sox manager John Farrell said the rookie's early taste of big league action -- and struggles -- could be good for Bradley in the long run. "We fully expect and have the utmost confidence he's going to be a very good everyday player in time... Players are going to fail and they're going to get challenged and the fact that Jackie got it early in his career, I think, will serve him well going forward."
Boston will certainly hope that holds true. Now at Triple-A, Bradley is off to a hot start with his new club. He's hitting .400 with six hits and four walks in four games. With incumbent center-fielder Jacoby Ellsbury a free agent after the 2013 season, the smooth-fielding outfield prospect could be a cost-effective replacement if his offense stabilizes in time.
Jesse Biddle, LHP, Philadelphia Phillies: With more uncertainty than usual in their starting five, the Phillies may be looking for an infusion of youth in starting rotation sooner than expected. Former first round draft pick (2010) Jesse Biddle could find himself in the right place at the right time. Currently pitching at Double-A, the southpaw struck out 16 batters and took a perfect game into the seventh inning of his start on April 22. He ended up allowing just one hit in seven innings of work. Through four starts, he's now allowed just 11 hits in 25 innings on the year.
Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com said the organization is buzzing about Biddle's early 2013 efforts. The scribe spoke with Joe Jordan, the Phillies director of player development, after the pitching prospect's dominating start. "What Jesse did was very exciting. To strike out 14 hitters in six innings with 73 pitches is almost impossible to do. That's like 12 pitches and inning. Very impressive."
As Salisbury pointed out, the Phillies have a number of young arms like Biddle to choose from in the event of injury or ineffectiveness to the current big league starters. Pitching prospects like Tyler Cloyd, Adam Morgan and Jonathan Pettibone, who was recently promoted in the wake of veteran starter John Lannan's injury. "We feel like we've got more than one guy to turn to depending on what the major league club's needs are," Jordan said.
Biddle's success should come as no surprise as he opened the year rated as the Phillies' No. 1 prospect by Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus and FanGraphs. Working against him, in terms of earning a promotion to the Majors, is the fact that he doesn't need to be added to the 40-man roster until after the 2014 season -- at which point he'll be awarded three option years that will allow him to be sent up and down between the Majors and the minors without being exposed to waivers. Adding him to the roster in 2013 would start the process two years early.
Prospect Tidbits: Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register (Twitter link) was the first to announce that the Angels' 2012 ninth round draft pick Michael Roth would make a spot start last night. Known for being a 'big game pitcher' while playing for the University of South Carolina, the southpaw needed just 12 games in the minors -- one above rookie ball -- to reach The Show..... After narrowly missing an opening day roster spot with the Tigers, Bruce Rondon has finally received the call. The sturdy right-hander did not allow a run in seven Triple-A appearances and continued to show improved control with just two walks during that span. The 22-year-old hurler has a dominating fastball that can reach triple-digits. Tigers manager Jim Leyland told George Sipple of the Detroit Free Press that Rondon will be used in the sixth and seventh innings.
After tonight's win over the Athletics, the Red Sox informed Alfredo Aceves that he would be demoted to the club's Triple-A affiliate. The right-hander now has 72 hours to report to Pawtucket and indications are that the Red Sox will try to deal him, according to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe (on Twitter).
Earlier today, Buster Olney of ESPN said in a radio interview that he spoke to one big league GM who believes that he club won't be able to get anything in return for the troubled pitcher. The Red Sox might be able to get salary relief in a deal involving Aceves, however, and Olney pointed to a club in search of bullpen help like the Angels could be a fit.
Aceves, 30, earns $2.6MM this season and isn't set to hit the open market until after the 2014 season. In parts of six big league seasons, Aceves owns a 3.82 ERA with 6.7 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 in 176 relief appearances and 12 starts. A few teams were interested in dealing for the right-hander prior to Opening Day, but injuries to Franklin Morales and Craig Breslow coupled with Daniel Bard's issues meant that the Red Sox couldn't part with him.
In this morning's roundup of news out of the American League East, Alex Burnett spoke with Shi Davidi of Sportsnet about the waiver process that ultimately took him from the Blue Jays to the Orioles. As trying as his brief pit stop with Toronto was, he feels even more for Casper Wells, who took a three game detour with the Blue Jays without playing once. “It happened pretty quickly for me, guys like Wells were in limbo forever, he hasn’t been able to do anything,” said Burnett. “I think it’s something that should maybe be brought up in the next players’ association meeting. It is a bad situation when it carries on as long as it has for some people.” Here's more on the Blue Jays and other notes out of the AL East..
- While the Blue Jays' usage of the waiver wire is starting to attract attention from around baseball, Matt Eddy of Baseball America spoke to one agent who said that he believes GM Alex Anthopoulous is up front with players who may get DFA'd shortly after being claimed. Agent Matt Sosnick also came to the defense of AA, saying, "I’d be very skeptical of somebody who said that Alex lied or misled them. I have a hard time believing that that’s the case.”
- It's not just players that aren't thrilled about the way the waiver system can be used, some clubs have lobbied for a rule change that would force teams to keep players claimed on waivers for a set period of time, sources tell Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. However, other clubs don't want to lose flexibility, according to a source, and the union almost certainly would oppose restricting player movement. Players who get knocked off of from 40-man rosters receive major league pay and service time while designated for assignment. Rosenthal spoke to Anthopoulos about his frequent waiver claims, and the GM noted that the Jays have lost players as well. He explained that the Jays' former Triple-A affiliate, the Syracuse Chiefs, aligned with the Nationals in part because Toronto did not provide a winning club. Now on a two-year contract with Buffalo, Anthopoulos is trying to provide a competitive team. As Eddy pointed out, however, many of Anthopoulos' waiver claims are with the Double-A club.
- Carl Crawford is thriving with the Dodgers and the outfielder attributes that in part to being able to leave a tough situation with the Red Sox behind, writes Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com. The outfielder explained that a number of factors including injuries and self-imposed pressure hounded him in Boston and took offense to the perception that he wasn't working hard enough to get back on track.